These books are good enough to deserve a review each. I’m reviewing them together because I was so eager to go from “High Stakes” to “Red Angel” that I read them back to back and now they feel like one continuous story in my head.
Helen Harper is like a breath of fresh air in Urban Fantasy. She twists the vampire, witches and demon tropes into fresh and surprising shapes. She sets her novels in an alternative London and brings a distinctly British feel to the way conflict and intrigue are handled. She also has a long-term story arc that is intriguing and hard to predict.
In “High Stakes” Bo is working for her Grandfather, former MI6 head, in New Order, an organization set up to manage conflicts between Tribers and humans. She’s committed to her job, especially when it involves tracking down a serial killer targeting witches, but her main goal is still to find a cure for her Vampirism.
The things I enjoyed most about “High Stakes” were: the development of strong ensemble cast of interesting characters, the increasing complexity of the Triber world, its politics and history; Bo’s internal conflict about whether or not to find and take a cure for vampirism and what debt she would be prepared to incur to get a cure and, perhaps best of all, the sense that Bo is stumbling around in the dark, unable to see the larger picture and is being shepherded in a particular direction for reasons that are not clear.
I found the relationship between Bo and Michael, her Vampire Sire, a little tiresome. If these two are going to have sex, I wish they’d just get it out of their system.
I felt the pace of the novel wobbled a little in the middle but overall it kept me wanting to turn the pages and the explosive ending more than made up for everything.
I moved straight on to “Red Angel”, deeply curious to understand where Bo will go now that her vampire state is no longer negotiable.
Stronger than its predecessor, “Red Angel” is also much darker. Helen Harper is not kind to her main characters. Any of them can die at any time. She seems to be particularly hard on Bo, who, in this book, works hard to do the right thing but keeps having her options narrowed and her humanity tested. Bo is becoming someone who it might be hard to like. Her fame, her vampire nature, the extreme situations she is placed in, are all eating away at the nice but mildly rebellious young woman we met in “Dire Straits”.
“Red Angel” is a fast, hard ride with a strong plot and a cliff-hanger ending that left me excited but also frustrated because there isn’t even a publication date for book five yet.